By Sandy Taylor
Vice-Chairman, CDI & President, Nuclear, SNC-Lavalin

Oct 15-19 marks Nuclear Science Week, an occasion to celebrate all aspects of nuclear science. From answering growing energy needs in a way that is clean and sustainable, to aiding in medical research towards diagnosing and curing diseases, nuclear science is crucial to our everyday lives. But what about safely disposing of nuclear generating facilities once they have reached the end of their lifespan? This is big business, and upwards of 200 reactors will reach their design lifespan in the next 20 years.

To take advantage of this, we launched Comprehensive Decommissioning International (CDI) this summer. CDI is a jointly owned company by Holtec and SNC-Lavalin for the safe, rapid and economic decommissioning of US nuclear power plants. Let’s take a deeper look at the newest piece of our nuclear offer.

Combining strengths

SNC-Lavalin brings the knowledge and infrastructure necessary for completing large projects and is backed by a portfolio of bespoke technologies for the processing and treatment radioactive waste. With 60 years of nuclear lifecycle operations spanning facility construction through to site restoration, we bring the programmatic structure and experienced personnel for the safe decommissioning of commercial nuclear facilities.

Holtec has 30 years of safe spent nuclear fuel management with expertise in designing and building on-site fuel storage installations, and the ability to perform dry storage implementation work with in-house resources.

Together, we have built a decommissioning approach that applies technology and lessons learned from our individual projects, as well as concepts benchmarked against broader industry experience. The safe deconstruction of nuclear power plants requires complex project planning and project management, specialized nuclear skills, proven processes and innovative technologies. CDI encompasses all these attributes and is backed by the financial strength of the partner companies.

Fleet management approach

With the announcements made in August regarding Purchase Sale Agreements (PSAs) for Pilgrim, Palisades and Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Stations, CDI is now positioned to carry out decommissioning activities under a fleet management approach. This means we can take advantage of safety, quality and performance lessons learned in real time across multiple sites to drive lower costs across the fleet.

CDI will act as the General Decommissioning Contractor (GDC) for all three sites, which will be owned by Holtec. Holtec will also hold the site licence. Having multiple sites running at the same time turns the workstream and management process into a programmatic fleet management approach.

Applying this approach turns a series of short-term projects into a long-term business model. As more sites are introduced to the portfolio, our people have expanded career opportunities as they have opportunities to move from site to site. And because the work involves a variety of disciplines, this allows for mobility among the more than 50,000 employees within SNC-Lavalin’s resource pool — not just those specializing in nuclear engineering.

These aren’t just “one and done” projects; CDI is a long term business and our goal is flawless execution, and using the fleet approach is an enabler to grow our business.

Accelerated DECON

Eight years. Let’s take a step back and think about that for a minute: CDI aims to completely decommission retired nuclear plants within eight years of their being turned over to us.

The financial strength of both parent companies enables CDI’s accelerated strategy by allowing the company to enter into early agreements with utilities. This early engagement and pre-planning smoothly transitions the workforce into decommissioning operations as soon as the plant is de-fueled, and the facility operating license is transferred. Under this approach, utilities avoid years of what is known as “safe storage” between shutdown and decommissioning.

Combining our skills to fully decommission nuclear plants within eight years is not only a win for companies like ours, but a win for communities and the entire nuclear industry. It demonstrates a commitment to safely remediate nuclear sites in a timely and responsible manner.